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Genealogy Resources

Vital Records

See also: Birth Records, Death Records, Marriage Records, Obituaries, Court Records

A vital record is a record of a birth, death, or marriage kept by the state, county, or town in which the event occurred. A few states recorded vital records in earlier centuries; however, most states did not establish vital records offices and maintain centralized files of vital records until the twentieth century.

To find a vital record for an ancestor, you must know the individual's name at the time of the event, the state in which the event occurred, and the date of the event or an approximate date.

Original copies of vital records are usually kept at a state agency, which is often part of the state health department. All state vital records offices have birth and death records. In most states, these records begin in the early 1900s. Not all state agencies have marriage records. In some states, marriage records have been filed in the state office only in recent years. In some states the state historical society functions as the state archives. Some states provide information online. Some state vital records offices have indexes to their records that are available to the public. At least seventeen states have indexes to twentieth-century death records on microfilm or microfiche. Those indexes available on microfilm at the Family History Library can be borrowed at a Family History Center.

In some states, vital records are closed for specified periods. Birth records may be closed for seventy-five or a hundred years and death records for fifty years. More recent marriage records may also be closed. These limitations are imposed to protect the privacy of living persons and to prevent illegal use of the records. Even in states where records are closed, regulations may permit you to obtain records for deceased members of your immediate family.

States, Records Dates and Links

Alabama

(Birth: January 1908; Death: January 1908; Marriage: August: 1936)

Alaska

(Birth: January 1913; Death: January 1913; Marriage: January 1913)

Arizona

(Birth: July 1909; Death: July 1909; Marriage: None)

Arkansas

(Birth: February 1914; Death: February 1914; Marriage: 1917 (coupons only)

California

(Birth: July 1905; Death: July 1905; Marriage: July 1905)

Colorado

(Birth: 1910; Death: 1900; Marriage: None)

Connecticut

(Birth: July 1897; Death: July 1897; Marriage: July 1897)

Delaware

(Birth: 1924; Death: 1956; Marriage: 1956)

Florida

(Birth: January 1917; Death: January 1917; Marriage: June 6, 1927)

Georgia

(Birth: January 1919; Death: January 1919; Marriage: June 9, 1952)

Hawaii

(Birth: 1853; Death: 1853: Marriage: 1853)

Idaho

(Birth: July 1911; Death: July 1911; Marriage: May 1947)

Illinois

(Birth: January 1916; Death: January 1916; Marriage: None)

Indiana

(Birth: October 1907; Death: 1900; Marriage: None)

Iowa

(Birth: July 1880; Death: July 1880; Marriage: July 1880)

Kansas

(Birth: July 1911; Death: July 1911; Marriage: May 1913)

Kentucky

(Birth: January 1911; Death: January 1911; Marriage: June 1958)

Louisiana

(Birth: July 1914; Death: July 1914; Marriage: Orleans Parish only, July 1914)

Maine

(Birth: 1923 (1892-1922 at State Archives); Death: 1923 (1892-1922 at State Archives); Marriage: 1923 (1892-1922 at State Archives))

Maryland

(Birth: August 1898; Baltimore from January 1875; Death: August 1898; Baltimore from January 1875; Marriage: June 1951)

Massachusetts

(Birth: 1905 (1841-1905 at Massachusetts Archives); Death: 1905 (1841-1905 at Massachusetts Archives); Marriage: 1905 (1841-1905 at Massachusetts Archives)

Michigan

(Birth: 1867; Death: 1867; Marriage 1867)

Minnesota

(Birth: January 1908; Death: January 1908; Marriage: None)

Mississippi

(Birth: 1912; Death: 1912; Marriage: None)

Missouri

(Birth: January 1910; Death: January 1910; Marriage: None)

Montana

(Birth: 1907; Death: 1907; Marriage: None)

Nebraska

(Birth: 1904; Death: 1904; Marriage: January 1909)

Nevada

(Birth: July 1911; Death: July 1911; Marriage: None)

New Hampshire

(Birth: 1640; Death: 1640; Marriage: 1640)

New Jersey

(Birth: June 1878 (1848-May 1878 at State Archives); Death: June 1878 (1848-May 1878 at State Archives); Marriage: June 1878 (1848-May 1878 at State Archives))

New Mexico

(Birth: 1920; Death: 1920; Marriage: None)

New York

(Except New York City - Birth: 1880; Death: 1880; Marriage: 1880)

North Carolina

(Birth: October 1913; Death: January 1946 (1913-1945 at State Archives); Marriage: January 1962)

North Dakota

(Birth: July 1893 (1894-1920 incomplete); Death: July 1893 (1894-1920 incomplete); Marriage: 1925)

  • North Dakota Death Index. The index supplies the individual's full name, date of birth (if known), date of death, county of residence and county of death. It supplements the Publication, North Dakota Necrology, 1920-1926, and the obituary and death notices found in the newspaper abstract file in the State Archives and Historical Research Library (SAHRL) at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. The time period covered in the death index is January 1, 1881 through October 31, 2005, with monthly updates. The site is maintained by the ND Department of Health's Division of Vital Statistics. Many early deaths were not recorded, and there are very few deaths listed in the index prior to 1900.
     
  • North Dakota Division of Vital Records.

Ohio

(Birth: December 20, 1908; Death: January 1945 (1908-1944 at Ohio Historical Society); Marriage: None)

Oklahoma

(Birth: October 1908; Death: October 1908; Marriage: None)

Oregon

(Birth: January 1903; Death: January 1903; Marriage: January 1906)

Pennsylvania

(Birth: January 1906; Death: January 1906; Marriage: None)

Rhode Island

(Birth: January 1853; Death: January 1853; Marriage: January 1853)

South Carolina

(Birth: January 1915; Death: January 1915; Marriage: 1950)

South Dakota

(Birth: July 1905; Death: July 1905; Marriage: July 1905)

Tennessee

(Birth: January 1914 (Nashville from June 1881, Knoxville from July 1881, Chattanooga from January 1882); Death: January 1914 (Nashville from July 1874, Knoxville from July 1887, Chattanooga from March 1872 - records over 50 years old at State Library and Archives); Marriage: July 1945)

Texas

(Birth: 1903; Death: 1903; Marriage: None)

Utah

(Birth: 1905; Death: 1905; Marriage: 1978)

Vermont

(Birth: 1981 (earlier at State Archives); Death: 1981 (earlier at State Archives); Marriage: 1981 (earlier at State Archives))

Virginia

(Birth: January 1853-December 1896; from June 14, 1912; Death: January 1853-December 1896; from June 14, 1912; Marriage: January 1853)

  • Virginia Death Records Index. A fully-searchable index to Virginia city and county death registers compiled 1853-1896. This is an on-going project sponsored by the Virginia Genealogical Society. Fifteen cities and counties have been indexed to date.
     
  • Virginia Vital Records.

Washington

(Birth: July 1907; Death: July 1907; Marriage: January 1968)

West Virginia

(Birth: January 1917; Death: January 1917; Marriage: 1964)

Wisconsin

(Birth: October 1, 1907; Death: October 1, 1907; Marriage: April 1836 (incomplete before October 1, 1907)

Wyoming

(Birth: July 1909; Death: July 1909; Marriage: May 1941)

Printed Resources

Finding Birth Information

  • Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources. Edited by Alice Eichholz. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. Also available from the NGS Bookstore with a member’s discount.  Address of each county courthouse and the earliest date of birth records, probate records, and deeds. Includes for each state a discussion of vital records, church records, probate records, and deeds.
     
  • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. County Courthouse Book. 2d ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995. Also available from the NGS Bookstore with a member’s discount. Addresses and telephone numbers for more than 3,000 county courthouses and town halls. Many of the entries include the officials to contact for vital records, probate records, deeds, and naturalization records.
     
  • The following National Archives microfilm catalogs can be ordered from the National Archives and Records Administration:

    The 1790-1890 Federal Population Censuses. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1997.

    The 1900 Federal Population Census. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996.

    The 1910 Federal Population Census. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996.

    The 1920 Federal Population Census. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992.

    Immigrant & Passenger Arrivals. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1991.

    Military Service Records. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1985.

    Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996.
     

  • Kemp, Thomas Jay. International Vital Records Handbook. 4th edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000. Offers a collection of vital records application forms from nations throughout the world, and information for each of the fifty states.
     
  • Schaefer, Christine. Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997. Also available from the NGS Bookstore with a member's discount. List of naturalization record repositories by state and county and microfilmed records available from the National Archives and LDS Family History Library. Not complete.
     
  • Szucs, Loretto Dennis. They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1998. Also available from the NGS Bookstore with a member's discount. Discussion of the naturalization process and strategies for locating naturalization records, with a detailed listing of naturalization records held by each National Archives regional archive.
     
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Where to Write for Vital Records: Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces. Publication No. (PHS) 93-1142. Hyattsville, Md., 1993. Available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office. Search the Sales Product Catalog. List of state vital records offices that may have delayed birth certificates.

Finding Death Information

  • Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources. Edited by Alice Eichholz. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. Also available from the NGS Bookstore with a member's discount. Address of each county courthouse and the earliest date of death records, probate records, and deeds. Includes for each state a discussion of vital records, church records, probate records, and deeds.
     
  • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. County Courthouse Book. 2d ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995. Also available from the NGS Bookstore with a member's discount. Addresses and telephone numbers for more than 3,000 county courthouses and town halls. Many of the entries include the official to contact for vital records, probate records, and deeds.
     
  • Brigham, Clarence S. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820. 2 vols. 1947. Reprint, Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1962. Guide to early American newspapers and the location of their extant issues. Available in larger libraries.
     
  • Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media (formerly Ayer Directory of Publications). Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1869- (annual). Currently published newspapers listed by state and city, with the year established and the address. Available in many libraries.
     
  • Genealogical Calendar, 1753-2000. NGS Research Aid No. 1. Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 1994. Available from the NGS Bookstore. Perpetual calendar that enables you to find the day of the week for any date or the date for a day in a specific week from 1753 to 2000.
     
  • Gregory, Winifred. American Newspapers, 1821-1936: A Union List of Files Available in the United States and Canada. 1937. Reprint, New York: Kraus Reprint Corp., 1967. American newspapers and the location of their extant issues, beginning where Brigham’s guide ends. Available in larger libraries.
     
  • Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives. Special Publication No. 40. Rev. and enl. ed. Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1976. Available from the NGS Bookstore with a member's discount. Index to the Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land warrant application files in the National Archives. Available in larger libraries.
     
  • Military Service Records. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration , 1985. National Archives microfilm catalog of pension application files and indexes.
     
  • Newspapers in Microform, United States, 1948-1983, 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1984. Bibliography of American newspapers that have been reproduced on microfilm. The years in the title refers to the years of data collection, not to the years of publication of the newspapers. Available in larger libraries.